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DMC: A New Family

As told to Leah Greenburg

Sometimes I get emotional or don’t feel like talking about it, and maybe that scares people or makes them feel like they overstepped some boundaries

Thursday, December 22, 2016

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Photo: Shutterstock.

I ’m glad you asked about my story, because most people I know shy away from it. They don’t want to cause me pain by asking. But the thing is that it’s part of my life, it’s reality as I know it, and I actually don’t mind when people ask, even though, yes, I suppose it is pretty personal. I would rather the person ask me straight out than hear she was asking other people about the details of my life.

Of course, sometimes I get emotional or don’t feel like talking about it, and maybe that scares people or makes them feel like they overstepped some boundaries. I say, be natural, not nosy, and don’t worry about it. This is part of my life and who I am. I include my parents in my life, and I want my children to know both my biological and adoptive parents. I’m really only calling them “my adoptive parents” here for clarity; I usually call them “my mother” and “my father.”

But let’s start way back at the beginning. When I was very young, maybe five or six, my mother became ill and she remained very sick for a few years. During that time, many people helped us out, provided meals, did what they could. My family was particularly close to one family, who I’ll call the Coopersteins. Before my mother became ill, we spent Yamim Tovim together and visited each other often. When I was 11, my mother was nifteres.

My memories are patchy, but real. I remember strong feelings of disbelief, vulnerability, loneliness, and a desperate desire to just be normal again. I remember feeling that awkwardness of being in between a big kid and a little kid — not old enough to really sit shivah properly, but still old enough to understand what was going on. I clung to a favorite childhood toy, a stuffed sheep.

When the week was over, I went back to school. I looked like all the other kids in their school uniforms, which was exactly what I wanted. In a way, school was like a haven. Maybe it was a survival strategy, but I strongly wanted home and school to be as separate as possible. I never wanted to be pitied, and I hated feeling different from the other kids.

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